Bayonne High is the reel deal for 'Strangers with Candy'

Friday, July 16, 2004
By Ben Reed
Journal staff writer

Yesterday afternoon a group of teenage boys surrounded a car in the Bayonne High School parking lot and beat it senseless with baseball bats, shattering windows and denting doors.

Luckily, parents of Bayonne high schoolers need not worry.

The boys were actors, not juvenile delinquents, and were filming a scene for the upcoming movie "Strangers with Candy," parts of which have been filmed at the high school since the students began their summer vacation.

Production trailers, packed with costumes, makeup, food, and equipment for the cast and crew line the parking lot behind the school, where filming is taking place on the third floor and in various locations outside.

According to the producers' Web site, robertsdavid.com, the film is based on the Comedy Central series that bore the same name and aired for three years, beginning in 1999. In the film, described on the site as "a dark satire of the moralistic after-school specials," 47-year old Jerri Blank, played by Amy Sedaris, returns to high school after three decades of life as a junkie.

Sedaris, Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert, the creators of the series, will star in the film, which they co-wrote.

"Strangers with Candy" has also attracted big-name talent such as Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Dinello is the director.

Due to contractual obligations, actors, production crew members, and school administrators would not comment on the movie.

While local residents have been kept in the dark about film details, many are excited to see a major motion picture being made in their backyard.

Deborah Bauer, from downtown Bayonne, believes that the film could be valuable in bringing some positive and widespread attention to the city.

"It's good publicity," she said. "It's great for the town to be mentioned for a project like that."

Lifelong Bayonne resident Tom Newman said the community could benefit from the money such a project would bring the city.

"I think it's good money for the city and also gives a whole lot of people some information about Bayonne," he said. "I just hope that if they're using the high school, some or all of the money made can be used for education."

Some in the neighborhood, however, have remained sheltered from the buzz of celebrities and huge production trailers just around the corner.

"I didn't even know they were making a movie," said Al, who's lived on Kennedy Boulevard, near 27th Street, for 20 years and declined to give his last name. "But it sounds like a good idea."


Film based on Comedy Central series being shot in Bayonne

Wednesday, July 21, 2004
By Ben Reed
Journal Staff Writer

With an array of colorful science projects that came up with conclusions such as "Lightning and Water Don't Mix!" it wasn't hard to imagine why the science fair scene of "Strangers with Candy" was designed to generate more laughs than scientific accomplishment.

And producers are hoping that the motion picture - which completed its three-week-long shoot at Bayonne High School yesterday - will generate plenty of them once it hits theaters, hopefully next spring.

The film is based on the Comedy Central series of the same name , which aired for three years, beginning in 1999, said co-producer Lorena David, who collaborated with Mark Roberts on this project. In the film, 47-year-old former convict and junkie Jerri Blank, played by Amy Sedaris, returns to high school in an attempt to get her life started again in the right direction.

Also starring in the film are Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The movie's school scenes included teenagers bashing a car with baseball bats and an internationally-minded physical education coach treating students to a "running of the bulls."

According to David, the high school offered a perfect setting.

"We wanted the film to have a bigger and nicer look than the series," she said yesterday. "With the architecture and size of the school and look of the classrooms, it looked richer while at the same time being a true high school. We've been really happy here and feel lucky that we were able to get the facility."

When long days of shooting in the summer heat overwhelmed actors, the enormous school provided them with plenty of places to chill out .

"The school's been great," said Sedaris, who co-wrote the film with the series' creators and stars Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert. "There's so much space that there's always somewhere to go when I need to get away."

Dinello is also directing the film.

Sedaris has helped spearhead a film that David describes as "really funny in a stupid-smart way."

"It's a different type of humor that will keep the audience laughing and is new and fresh compared to other comedies," she said.

And David says that viewers won't need to furiously catch up on "Strangers with Candy" reruns to appreciate the film.

"It was written so that anyone can go see it and understand the story," said David.

David credits the talents of Sedaris, Dinello and Colbert for attracting the superstars the movie has on board.

"They have a great following," she said. "Many actors are enamored with their comic abilities and want to work with them."

Sedaris, in turn, has loved working with the talented and diverse cast.

"The best thing about making the movie has been the cast," she said. "It's been amazing to work with these people."

Bayonne High School principal Rich Baccarella said the school building is often courted by production companies for its look, its style of architecture and proximity to New York City.

The school has been used in recent years for the filming of "Swimfan," the 2002 picture that starred Erika Christensen and Jesse Bradford, and the short-lived "Matt Waters," series starring Montel Williams.

Television commercials, even from big-name brands like Nike, are also commonly shot at the facility.

Baccarella noted that the funds gained from such projects make it extremely valuable to the school.

"Film shoots like this generate funds earmarked specifically for student-related activities that aren't included in the regular school budget," he said, noting Project Graduation and the Senior Awards Banquet as examples. "From that perspective, we're very pleased to give production companies access to the school."

Baccarella would not estimate the dollar amount the movie shoot will earn the Board of Education.

The city receives a $50-a-day permit fee for production, city spokesman Joseph Ryan said.

Despite his promotion of the movie shoot for financial reasons, the high school principal also showed that he is just as vulnerable as everyone else to star power.

"It's exciting," he said with a smile, mentioning the presence of big-name celebrities in his own backyard. "It's fun."

Filming for "Strangers with Candy" will now move to private homes in New Jersey, where it will continue for a few more weeks.

© 2004 nj.com